One magical morning during Carnival season each year, the city wakes up like kids on Christmas to discover that the krewe behind the Spanish Town ball and parade has once again snuck into the City Park Lake and planted dozens of giant wooden flamingos. The bravest—and fastest—among us take to the water to retrieve a flamingo to display proudly in front of our homes. LSU geography teaching assistant Robin Cobb has retrieved flamingos twice on her windsurfing board, but her best advice to get your own is to try a canoe—something with a sturdy bottom and lots of room to store your flamingo as you paddle back to shore. It also helps to bring a buddy for counterbalance as you pull out your flamingo, as the lake’s muddy bottom is known to hold on tight. Most of all, wear a wetsuit if you have one, and prepare to get drenched in a lot of cold water.
KNOW YOUR FLAMINGO HISTORY
The first hand-painted plywood flamingos were placed in the University Lakes in 1996 to drum up interest in the Spanish Town ball, which didn’t yet have the popularity it does now. In earlier years, the krewe put out flamingos around 6 p.m., but demand for the pink birds grew so high that flamingo-hunters would wait on the shore and “adopt” one as soon as it was planted in the water. According to krewe board member Brian Nolan, what started as just four people taking to the water to place the birds now includes several teams of two volunteers in motorboats and bateaus with a dozen flamingos each. They set out in the dead of night a few weeks before the ball, with the exact date of flamingo deployment kept top-secret. While they’ve placed as many as 140 in the lakes during previous years, today they average about 50 to 75.